What is most striking about TimeLine’s production, directed with lip-smacking gusto by Nick Bowling, is that it doesn’t sandpaper the rough edges of the reporters who wait impatiently to cover the hanging of a small-time anarchist (Rob Fagin). They are brutes who make no effort to hide their brutality, and they care about nothing but getting the story, least of all the bruised feelings of the anarchist’s girlfriend (Mechelle Moe), whom they treat like gum on the sole of a worn-out shoe. The contrast between the savage cynicism with which the reporters are portrayed and the comic dynamism of the play’s door-slamming plot is startlingly modern, as are the play’s overlapping dialogue (which Hawks borrowed for “His Girl Friday”) and blunt language.
It’s Labor Day weekend, and while most Chicagoans are planning their last summer escape, director Sean Graney is wrapping up an 80-hour week preparing for The Hypocrites opening of Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera at the Steppenwolf Theatre’s Garage (running though Oct. 12). Admittedly, he confides that this is not the best time to interview him. There is a great deal of pressure, and with this being his first venture into musicals, expectations are running high. Graney’s mind is engulfed by the play, which focuses on the life of the underpaid and underfed, which perhaps explains why economics are weighing so heavily on his mind these days. I had just turned 23 when I first met Sean Graney. We were both just out of school and pretty poor. He used to skateboard alongside my bike, and we had a bad habit spending our paychecks on one too many PBR’s at the L&L Tavern. We rehearsed in cramped living rooms, had late-night meetings at dirty, vegetarian restaurants and performed in basements filled with broken down couches. We talked a lot. We yelled more. It was mostly about our no-money theater company.